EKŌ Temple

In the middle of the altar room, on the same axis as the second section of the garden path, stands a wooden sculpture of the Buddha Amida. The side-altar to its right contains a portrait of Shinran, who in the 13th century gave the teachings of the Buddha Amida their definitive form in Japan. The left side-altar has an image of Rennyo; in the 15th century, as head (Monshu) of the Shinran-school, he was responsible for giving it further significant impetus. In the side-room on the right is a hanging scroll with a picture of Prince Shōtoku. The side-room on the left is for paying reverence to the “Seven Patriarchs” of Shin-Buddhism: from India, Nâgârjuna (around 200 AD) and Vasubandhu (5th C.); from China, Tanluan (476-542), Daochuo (562-645) and Shandao (613-681); and from Japan, Genshin (942-1017) and Hōnen (1133-1212), Shinran’s teacher.
Above the entrance to the altar room, in the centre, are written the two characters “E-KŌ”. They are taken from a long passage in praise of the Light of Amida, in one of the three founding texts of Pure Land Buddhism, with the meaning “Luminous Splendour” or “Bestowing Light”. The dominant colour in the altar room is gold. One the one hand, it derives from the traditional palace architecture of China and Korea; but at the same time, here it can also be thought of as the colour of the “Pure Land in the West”, the colour whose brilliance and splendour is that of the ever-present light of the Buddha, greeting all creatures as they approach.
The paintings on the sliding doors either side of the entrance depict scenes from the “Pure Land”. The purely gilded background seen here is known in Japan on standing screens from as early as the 14th century. Such paintings belong to the older, aristocratic tradition of kachōga,”Flower and Bird” painting. The cliffs, stands of bamboo, and fields and streams set on the uniformly wide borderless gold ground of such screens give the flat gold expanse an impression of depth, and move the scene depicted – here with peacocks, which the founding texts of Shin-Buddhism tell us live in the “Pure Land”, and with peonies – into the foreground, closer to the viewer. According to an ancient Indian legend, the peacock will eat snakes whose poison would be fatal for any human being, without itself being harmed; hence it has the saving qualities of a Bodhisattva.
The origins of multi-coloured paintings in which peacocks appear on a gold background as inhabitants of Amida’s Pure Land are to be found in the Kanô-School of the 15th century. The costliness and luxuriant growth of the peony was already associated in China with abundant nourishment and prosperity; in Japan it had connections with the coat-of-arms of a number of aristocratic families as well. Peacock and peony together reappear also, in different variations, in the horizontal open work sections above the door panels.
In the basement of the temple there is a hall with adjustable altar, suitable for ceremonies and practices of other Buddhist schools.

Traditional Japanese House

The standard construction unit of what was previously the guesthouse is the Tatami-mat (just 90 x 180 cm) on the floor. Its length corresponds to human height: its dimensions derive from those of the sleeping place. This human proportion is repeated as module throughout the whole house. Each of the main rooms has eight such mats, while the same measure recurs in the sliding elements of the walls and doors and in the fixed transverse panels above them, to be repeated also in the roof construction.

The walls are thin space-fillers, slidable and removable. The Tatami-mats, as well as the tokonoma, the display alcove, are not added after the event, like furniture or items for display, but instead belong to the body of the house itself. In this type of construction, structure and decoration are not separate or distinct: no empty box is built, and then filled.

The relation between house garden and architecture is a symbiotic one. The character for “garden” is made up of three elements: an outer wall, the main building-complex within, and the planted grounds, which in turn may have other structures. Whereas inside the house right angles dominate, with crooked or curved lines nowhere to be found, the plant and landscape zones, which can be regarded at leisure from the house, are ruled by a kind of controlled wildness, free of any suggestion of axial symmetry. Because its walls are slidable, the view from within the house of the garden, designed to be free of all regularity, can be “framed” in various ways: one time to appear as a long cross-section, another as a large hanging scroll landscape painting. Nevertheless, the paving stones leading out of the house demonstrate that the gardens here are not only “position”, but also “movement” gardens, the view of which changes in some specific way with almost every step.


Temple Garden

The temple grounds are entered through the “Mountain Gate” – also referred to as the “Triple-Gate”. Donated by Jusha Tsumura in 1995, it is dedicated to the Buddha as Doctor-King. From the gate, the path through the garden first passes a Purification Basin. The garden is of the “Pure Land” type, and so itself a ritual place. Here it has been designed as a dry garden: waterfall, the course of the stream, pool and stream banks are all shown just with stones: “dry.” Nevertheless, for special occasions it is also possible to flood the “water”-area.

Opposite the Mountain Gate, on the other side of the garden, on a boulder under a pavilion, stands a statue of Prince Shōtoku (Shōtoku Taishi, 574-622), donated to the EKŌ Center in 2002 by the prominent contemporary sculpter NAGAOKA Wakei. It was in the reign of Shōtoku that Buddhism came to Japan, and he made major contributions to its becoming widespread there.

One hour before major celebrations, the heavy bronze bell in the bell-tower is struck, in all ten times, at intervals of one minute. On the last day of the year the Joya-no-kane is performed: the bell is struck 108 times, also at one minute intervals, to drive away and scatter the 108 fundamental sufferings of humanity. On the west side of the temple is a site of remembrance for the dead, buried there according to Shin-Buddhist ritual. The inscription in Chinese characters reads, in the Japanese pronunciation, “Kue issho”: “All gather together at a single place.”
The outstanding construction in the building complex is the temple. The ground floor of its main hall is built after the Jōdo-shin Temple in Utsunomiya (north of Tōkyō).


The user of our library has access to numerous resources (dictionaries and specialist terminology, biographical and bibliographical reference works) and sources, which are supplemented by an extensive collection of specialist publications and periodicals. A special focus of the collection are publications on Buddhist research. Numerous important source collections (Taishō Canon, Tibetan Canon, Pali Canon, Bibliotheca Buddhica, Sacred Books of the East, etc.) are available here, some with modern Japanese translations.
Also owned by the EKŌ House is the library of Hans Fischer-Barnicol, which includes works on intercultural religious studies research, including an extensive collection of unpublished manuscripts and documents.
Attention: Our library can only be used by prior arrangement! Please make an appointment!


Jan Marc Nottelmann-Feil
☎ 0211-577918-224
📠 0211-577918-219
bibliothek AT eko-haus.de


Main building


EKŌ Hall:

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Three seminar rooms (combinable):

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Exhibition foyer:

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Kyōsei-kan (annex building)


Kyōsei Hall:

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